An in-depth look at what the Big 12 basketball landscape looks like roughly a month after the end of the season.
The biggest news in Big 12 hoops
12. Kansas problems
A few weeks after the Final Four, Kansas was named in a FBI college basketball investigation indictment and labeled a “victim” of fraud as the government claims that Adidas’s payments to recruits to attend certain schools damaged the athlete’s amateurism status and therefore the school wasted money, public money, giving a player a scholarship.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger doesn’t like the term “victim” in the case:
“That’s the term they use in the (indictment), and therefore that is what you use early on,” Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World. “But neither one of us like that, but I don’t know what other phrase you use other than the (indictment) says we have been defrauded as an institution.”
Kansas is the biggest basketball school to be named in this investigation. Kansas is also the most prominent Adidas-sponsored school in college basketball. The school is still going forth with its $191 million, 12-year deal with the shoe company.
What the FBI report from April revealed is two Kansas players, allegedly 2017 recruits Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, had parents or guardians receive money to help steer the player to Kansas. That money was allegedly given by Adidas through various youth basketball programs. The comical revelation is one of the recruits, likely De Sousa’s guardian, was, allegedly, given money by another shoe company to go to another school, but the player was so dead-set on going to Kansas over the other school, that they reneged on said deal and needed money, allegedly, from Adidas to get “out from under” the deal.
Once Kansas was named it became clear to many the Jayhawks’ Big 12 Championship streak was in peril, that the program was about to get slammed by the NCAA— essentially what happened at Louisville could happen at Kansas. But there were no Kansas coaches named in the indictment, unlike the other schools mentioned, and there’s no proof the players– really player since Preston never actually played for Kansas this past season– knew of the dealings between the guardian and the shoe company.
This is obviously a black-eye to a blue-blood program and a Hall of Fame coach in Bill Self, but if the school and player(s) didn’t know this was happening, will the NCAA punish Kansas? The Kansas City Star broke it down here.
My thoughts: I have no idea how the NCAA will punish programs named in the FBI case. The organization has done nothing to Auburn, USC, Arizona and Oklahoma State — programs who had coaches arrested in the case — and the alleged De Sousa deal clearly shows that other companies are doing the same thing for other programs. Also, what does the NCAA do about shoe companies paying family members hundreds of thousands of dollars to coach average-performing youth basketball teams?
Can they do anything? Should they do anything?
What I do know is the NCAA is not going to do their own investigation until after the FBI finishes its investigation. And then after it releases its findings, each program will appeal and defend itself to the fullest. Whatever happens isn’t going to happen this year and I doubt it’ll happen next year.
But it’ll start with…
11. The Commission on College Basketball
On Wednesday, the committee that was formed following the FBI’s initial raids and arrests in September released its findings/ recommendations for “fixing” college basketball.
The highlights? End the “one-and-done rule” that only the NBA can end, change the rules between NCAA and apparel companies that pay for many sports the schools have and, the most realistic and best idea, potential lifetime bans for rule-breakers.
The NCAA can’t end the one-and-done rule. That’s an NBA rule.
Seeing how even after Adidas made Kansas a “victim” in the NCAA FBI case that the two are still on pace to finish a 12-year deal, I don’t see apparel companies leaving the NCAA alone anytime soon.
The lifetime ban is needed, especially if schools continue to hire coaches who commit major infractions.
The other great suggestion is allowing undrafted players to return school.
The NBA Draft and the Big 12
10. The highest drafted Big 12 players will be
Texas’ Mo Bamba and Oklahoma’s Trae Young will be taken in the top 10 of the NBA Draft. Bamba is likely a top-5 pick. Young will be taken by a team looking for the best shooter in the draft.
After those two players? Texas Tech breakout freshman Zhaire Smith is projected to be the next Big 12 pick by CBS Sports’ most recent mock draft and the only other first-round pick out of the Big 12.
Ranking the players whose decisions to return to school will have the biggest impact
From lowest to highest
9. Udoka Azubuike, Kansas center
Now that Zhaire Smith is officially in the NBA Draft, I think the Kansas sophomore is the best Big 12 player still considering whether he should stay in the draft or comeback to school. But the impact his return or non return to Kansas isn’t the greatest among the players. Azubuike shot close to 80 percent from the floor last season and had 117 dunks. That’s really good.
But if he decides to stay in the draft Kansas is still the favorite to win the Big 12 this fall, the Jayhawks are still a national title contender and Kansas still has a loaded front court with McDonald’s All-American center David McCormick arriving on campus and with Silvio De Sousa, Dedric Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot all front court options. Azubuike’s decision to return to campus makes the Jayhawks the possible No. 1 team in the nation next season, but if he stays in the draft, Kansas is still in good shape.
Prediction: Azubuike returns to Kansas.
8. Sagaba Konate, West Virginia center
On the surface, ranking the likely preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year here seems crazy, but Konate is a player that West Virginia can lose and still not change what they do next season. He wasn’t a huge factor offensively for the Mountaineers, and West Virginia is still probably going to press next season. With him back, though, WVU gets the best shot blocker in the nation, but will likely be able to survive without him.
Like Azubuike, he’ll be a junior next season and because he did show he has something of a jump shot (unlike Azubuike) and is that perfect NBA small-ball center size at 6-foot-8-inches and 260 pounds, maybe he stays in the draft. But I think Konate is more likely a four-year player who will stay at West Virginia and continue to develop his shot.
Prediction: Konate returns to West Virginia.
7. Kerwin Roach, Texas guard
If Roach returns to Texas for his senior year, the Longhorns are in the upper half of the Big 12 preseason poll next year. There’s just too much evidence suggesting Texas has a big year next season with him back. He’ll join Dylan Osetkowski as a senior in the starting lineup, he’ll be one of four returning starters on a team that’ll be deep and he’ll be the most accomplished all around player on the roster.
If Roach stays in the draft, despite not a single mock draft suggesting he’ll be drafted in the first round, Texas has options to replace him in the lineup, including four-star guard from Cibolo Steele Gerald Liddell. Texas is much better with Roach back, but it won’t sink its hopes next season if he leaves.
Prediction: Roach returns to Texas.
6. Oklahoma State players
Tavarius Shine and Yankuba Sima are early entrants to the NBA Draft. Sima, Shine and Cameron McGriff would be the three best players on Oklahoma State next year. With Shine and Sima back the Cowboys have legit NCAA Tournament hopes.
However, it’s not as though OSU had Big 12 title hopes with those two back to begin with. Big picture wise, OSU is still a bit of mystery whether they’re in Stillwater or not.
Prediction: Both will be back next season.
5. Barry Brown, Kansas State guard
With Barry Brown back next season, Kansas State should be a top 10 preseason team and should have the second best chances in the Big 12 to win the league. Whether you want to blame it all on UMBC’s upset of Virginia, Kansas State still beat Kentucky in the Sweet 16 to reach the Elite Eight this past season. With Brown back, Kansas State returns just about every player who mattered in their tournament run. He and Dean Wade would form one of the best duos in the nation and coach Bruce Weber would have his best team since his second season at Illinois when he reached the National Championship game.
Like almost every player listed, Brown isn’t being selected in many mock drafts. Things could change with at the NBA Combine if Brown is invited, but not having Brown back for Kansas State trips up the Wildcats. He was their best player in the tournament — both the NCAA and Big 12 — and is probably their best offensive player all year. Without him the Wildcats will need to rely more on Wade and Xavier Sneed. Brown’s decision won’t keep KSU from being ranked, but if he stays in the draft it takes away from the programs very real Final Four hopes next season.
Prediction: Brown returns next season.
4. Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State guard
No team in the Big 12 stands to lose more than Iowa State does with the Lindell Wigginton decision. He was the Cyclones’ best player last season, being named on the All-Big 12 Newcomer team and his return makes Iowa State a team that should expect to return to the tournament. He could be the Big 12’s leading scorer next season after averaging 16. 7 points as a freshman and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the Big 12 preseason Player of the Year if he returns.
Without him Iowa State is relying on a pair of transfers, Marial Shyok and Michael Jacobson, along with a recruiting class that does ranks 25th in the nation, but probably doesn’t include a freshman of Wigginton’s caliber. With him back, Iowa State has all the pieces to be a top 25 team.
Here’s the thing: I expect Wigginton and Roach to wow scouts at the NBA Combine, but I think Wigginton’s offensive game is better and he could be the biggest breakout player.
Prediction: Wigginton stays in the draft.
3. Changes at Texas and the Tweet of the Week
The Texas Longhorns will look different next season. Texas lost assistant coach Mike Morrell, who became the head coach at UNC Asheville, and also saw Jacob Young and James Banks transfer. Young’s decision has a greater impact than Banks’ because Texas had clearly recruited over the big man who rarely played last season. While Banks will head to Georgia Tech, Young is arriving at Rutgers having proven he can be an impact player at a Power 5 program.
Smart hasn’t made a hire yet to replace Morrell, but expect one fairly soon as the program transitions from 2018 recruiting to 2019 recruiting.
The biggest thing to watch, and the best thing in the Big 12 to watch, is the continued improvement of Andrew Jones. We’re probably not to the point where we can talk about him returning to the court next season, but all the updates continue to be positive, thus our Tweet of the Week:
— Texas Exes (@TexasExes) April 25, 2018
2. Recruiting storylines to follow
Programs are still closing out the Class of 2018. Texas got a commitment from Missouri guard Courtney Ramey Friday and Kansas, who despite all the FBI news is still in the running for top 10 recruit Romeo Langford.
If Texas and Kansas miss out on those two, I’d expect Kansas to be OK with its class and enter next season with an open scholarship. For Texas, who has kept a scholarship open the last several seasons, it wouldn’t be surprising if a graduate transfer or a normal transfer fills the final spot — assuming that Roach returns, there will be only one open spot.
As for the other programs, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor are programs with multiple scholarships still hand out.
1. Way too early lists
Kansas continues to top CBS’ Way Too Early rankings, and CBS also seems to be the only site crazy enough to continually update its rankings. However, expect Villanova to top Kansas if Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo return to campus.
Kansas State is still listed as No. 12, and that’s factoring Barry Brown’s return. West Virginia is No. 17 followed by No. 21 TCU. Don’t expect other Big 12 schools to enter these rankings between now and the start of the season.